《Coffman Commentaries on the Bible – 1 Timothy》(James B. Coffman) Commentator

who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen


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who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen.

These words, as applied to the Lord Jesus Christ, are obviously spoken of his eternal and glorified state; because, as regards his earthly ministry, of course, men could and did see him. That it is impossible for men to see him at the present time is a fact of wide theological implications. What of all the saints of the historical church, to whom prayers are even offered, especially of the blessed Mary? Can she deliver any petition to the King? Indeed, no! The word for "man" here means "no human being"; and, therefore, no departed saint can either approach or see the King.

Verse 17

Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they be not highminded, nor have their hopes set on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

This paragraph indicates that the church had affected society more widely in Ephesus than it had at Corinth, of which Paul wrote "not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26).[26]SIZE>

There were evidently a number of rich Christians in Ephesus, a fact also suggested by the fact of some of the Asiarchs being solicitous for Paul's welfare at the time of the riot in that city (Acts 19:31). Such indeed would have been the source of strong temptation to a young man like Timothy. Paul, however, knew his man, being very sure that Timothy would live up to the trust committed to him. His attitude must have been similar to the following poetical description of it:


I cling to faith and honor still As flying years recede, Assured that within the Father's will That I shall live indeed

When life with joy and sorrow ends, Probation done at last. I thus accept whate'er he sends Of sun or stormy blast.

Despite temptation strong and wild, And nagging doubts inside, I know I am the Father's child, For whom the Saviour died.

Nor fears, nor doubts, nor taint of sin Shall shake my confidence Or kill the certainty within That trusts God's providence.

Some infinite design was his When every life began; And though such boundless mysteries, No human eye can scan,

The mind of faith may comprehend What only angels know, And always on the Lord depend For guidance here below.

The sun, the moon, the stars, the sea The Father's will obey; Then why should man suppose that he Alone may choose his way?

Then let the way of God be mine Forever and a day; And let his will and purpose shine Within my life alway!

- James Burton Coffman

The uncertainty of riches ... Paul's disparagement of wealth in this passage is fully consonant with the teachings of Jesus who called it "the unrighteous Mammon," that is, a false God which people worship. For a list of reasons why wealth is dishonest, or unrighteous, see my Commentary on Luke, p. 349. It is not that the rich must be presupposed to have acquired wealth by dishonorable means, because this is by no means true; rather the thought is that money itself is wicked, and one of the wicked things about it is that it tempts people to trust in it, the very vice which Timothy was here cautioned against.

God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy ... All wealth and all possessions are of the Lord. Those who are blessed with such things should thank and honor the Lord for their blessings. Paul next laid down some rules for the wealthy, showing how they may use their wealth for their own eternal welfare, as well as for the blessing of others.


[26] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 148.

Verse 18
that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate;

The wealthy have many opportunities to do good, but how often such opportunities are allowed to go unnoticed or neglected. Especially if the fruits of wealth are consumed upon lustful and idle pleasures, it sometimes follows that the good men might have done is simply not done.

Again, there is a remarkable suggestion in this verse of the book of Hebrews, which has this: "Do good, and to communicate forget not" (Hebrews 13:16).

The contrast between the two instructions seems to be this: "distribution" refers to the distribution of funds that the rich might make personally to men in his presence, or community; whereas "communicate" refers to monies supplied to philanthropies or distant recipients, such as missionaries, with whom communication would be involved. Both terms undeniably apply to the giving of one's money to support worthwhile Christian endeavor of all kinds.

Verse 19

laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed.

Laying up in store ... This is exactly what we should have expected the author of 1 Corinthians 16:2 to have written; and here is the obvious meaning of "both" references. The one doing the "laying" is the Christian, from "lay by HIM in store." The words "for themselves" identify both Scriptures as being related to the words of Christ, "Lay up FOR YOURSELVES treasures in heaven" (Matthew 6:20).

A good foundation against the time come ... The eternal benefit accruing to the giver was likewise stressed by Christ himself in Luke 16:9, which furnishes elaboration to what Paul said here. The foundation is vital, fundamental and necessary for whatever is contemplated.

Verse 20
O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee, turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of the knowledge that is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with you.

Guard that ... is one of the needless revisions in the American Standard Version. As Hervey said, "GUARD for KEEP is hardly an improvement. The meaning for keep is to guard, keep watch over and PRESERVE."[27]

Profane babblings ... This does not refer to teaching that was poorly spoken, outright blasphemous or nonsense. No, this is the apostolic evaluation of the most sophisticated heathen teaching of that generation, as indicated by "knowledge that is falsely so called," which balances and explains it. These entire two verses, according to White, may be considered "a summary of the whole epistle."[28] Hardly any passage in the New Testament has any more relevance for our own generation than does this one. This is the time of the utmost arrogance, pride and conceit of haughty boasters who are shouting in deafening tones from every cultural center on earth that they "KNOW." This is the Neo-Gnosticism of the 20th century. What they profess to know is a lie. Man did not evolve from lower life forms. It does not lie within man to direct his steps; and before the phenomenon has disappeared, the proof of the Scriptures will again be profoundly demonstrated.

Have erred concerning the faith ... As Lenski said:

This warning is not directed to Timothy as though he might lose the faith but is a warning that Timothy is to address to the membership of the churches. (This applies also) to other warnings found in this letter.[29]SIZE>

Grace be with you ... This very brief benediction is quite similar to the one which concludes the book of Hebrews.

You ... here is plural in the Greek, indicating that the meaning of it here is identical with that in Hebrews where it is rendered "you all." As Gould said, "It is evident that he has the entire church at Ephesus in mind when he pens his parting benediction."[30]

[27] A. C. Hervey, op. cit., p. 124.

[28] Newport J. D. White, op. cit., p. 150.

[29] R. C. H. Lenski, op. cit., p. 735.

[30] J. Glenn Gould, op. cit., p. 622.

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